Parable of the Sower Critique: Chapter 5

I wrote this story during my Sophomore year at an SDA boarding Academy. In place of commentary, just insert “oh fuck, SERIOUSLY?!” at the end of each sentence.

But, since this still isn’t good enough for you….

We last left off with Holly’s mother and sister getting arrested and Holly being shipped off to a children’s home for orphans of persecuted Adventists.

Because those not only exist, they were able to be setup overnight. I’ve said it before, there’s no way the US government is that fast and efficient.

Holly’s room mate has the most annoying alarm clock radio ever, and she resists the urge to smash it. Her room mate wakes up and introduces herself as “Aralyn.” When Teenage!me needed names, she opened up a book of baby names, slapped her finger down, and behold, characters have names. Hence the name, “Aralyn.”

“I’m Aralyn… you look a little old to be in here, how old are you?”

“16, why?”

“Hmm… nothing, I just thought they were killing all the kids unless they were under 13….”

Whoa there teenage!me, slow down. The cutoff age is thirteen?

I sit up in bed, “wait, what?”

“Don’t you know?”

“Know what?”

Aralyn sighs, “Every time the government goes on a raid, they kill all the family members except those under the age of 13. these, they take back to special homes and raise them in the new World Wide Religion.”

So, let’s pause to talk about this. On the one hand, teenage!me was thinking that there was an age of accountability, and that it was somewhere around the 12-13 year mark. Teenage!me was also a 16 year old being forced to go to church against her will. So, why would she automatically assume that anyone over the age of 13 has a choice about going to church? If the government is compassionate enough to spare children, they’d probably at least make the cutoff age 18. This could still have worked. It’s never stated in the text, but Jaimie is an 18 year old senior in high school. Holly’s mom and sister could still be arrested and Holly shipped off to a children’s home without all this weirdness about the age of accountability.

Holly’s response to this whole “every time the government goes on a raid” thing is about the same as I imagine a normal person’s would be:

“Huh?”

That one word about sums up the entire plot of this book.

“There training us to be priests! They think were young enough to be manipulated!”

I’m stunned. “So, you mean they… take…. little children?!”

Teenage!me was mostly unaware, at this time, of all the scandals rocking the Catholic church. Teenage!me isn’t worried about priests molesting her baby, although that is the way it reads to me now as an adult.

[Aralyn] sniffs, “I am not a little child. But yes, they do mainly take those.”

I don’t know if teenage!me ever stated this: Aralyn is 12. Whether or not she’s actually a small child is up for debate. However, this response is something I could picture an actual 12 year old saying if you refer to them as “little children.”

I massage my abdomen, horrified at the thought of my little child being whisked away, knowing that it would grow up not knowing Jesus… I shudder. I would rather it be still-born than have that happen!

This…. is why they don’t like to let 16 year olds have babies. I’d rather it be still-born than not know Jesus? That’s horrifying. Did my parents ever say or think anything like that? Where am I getting this from? Did I come up with it by myself, or did some adult say something like that to me?

I wish I could remember. I’m sure I knew once, but I don’t anymore.

And here we have a conversation between Holly and God as she talks to Aralyn. It’s not particularly well written but points to teenage!me for trying:

“I left the church a long time ago.” I whisper, my cheeks going red.

What, its not a total lie!

Holly, my intention was not for you to lie about who you are!

“Oh,” said Aralyn, disappointed.

If God didn’t want her to lie, why’d he tell her to shut the fuck up when she tried to tell the police she wasn’t an Adventist?

Oh never mind.

Holly is about to tell Aralyn the truth, that she is a Seventh Day Adventist, when Aralyn says they’d better get downstairs for breakfast, because Mrs. Gladstone is very strict. Something about being grounded. Teenage!me did not know the meaning of the world “grounded” but she knew it happened to teenagers with strict parents, and she wanted Mrs. Gladstone to be a strict parent, so teenage!me stuck it in there.

I slide out of bed and reach for the nearest duffel bag. I pull out my gortex shoes, black velvet pants, and a lavender sweater with purple trim.

Oh god, the clothes I used to wear!

I follow her downstairs to the table, where approximately 20 children are eating scrambled eggs, ham, cereal and buttered toast at a large table.

This is probably the most realistic part of the whole chapter. Foster moms are often overworked, and if they were taking all the children from Adventist homes, foster parents would suddenly find themselves swamped with children. 20 children with only one adult in charge? Probably would be normal at this point.

Or would it? Seventh Day Adventists are a minority, and most Adventists I know believe in birth control, so you wouldn’t really be dealing with that many kids in the first place. This is particularly true if you’re only taking children under 13.

Unless one lives in a town with an unusually large population of SDAs, there probably wouldn’t be many displaced children. Perhaps, then, this part is extremely unrealistic.

Well, Adventists do believe that in the last days there will be a lot of converts….. So, I guess it’s a tossup.

Mrs. Gladstone walks up to me and says, “good morning, Holly! This is your seat.” she points to a chair between a girl with long blonde who couldn’t have been more than 10 years old, and another small girl around the age of eight, also blonde, only this one had glasses.

Oh look, it’s my chemistry teacher’s daughters. I used to play with them after school sometimes.

I sit down and Mrs. Gladstone offers up a small, repetitive prayer. Then all the children start to eat.

I mean, I personally have always thought that anything longer than, “Dear Jesus, thank you for the food, Amen” is way too fucking long of a prayer. So why am I criticizing the prayer for being small? If the prayer is small how is it possibly repetitive?

Teenage!Me you’re fucking contradictory!

Anyway, Holly has a conniption because she’s vegan, and she’s sticking to it, even though that means she has to subsist on dry toast and cheerios. She won’t even consent to eat eggs, because screw the unborn baby, I guess.

And too, Mrs. Gladstone should know that with ex Adventists, you have to work them up to pork bacon gradually. Shoot, even turkey bacon might be too much for some of the children. This is probably the first time in that poor little 8 year old’s life that she’s even had any meat at all. I’m not saying Mrs. Gladstone needs to go out and buy expensive specialty food, but she could probably meet the children halfway. Their religion does allow for clean meat, and she could start there and kind of gradually work her way up.

But there shouldn’t have even been time to set this up, because the law was just announced yesterday. The United States Government is never that efficient at setting up systems. Tearing them down is apparently another story, but let that pass.

Mrs. Gladstone shakes her head and clucks her tongue, “you poor dear!” she sighs and shakes her head, “you have no need to worry here, you can forget all the Adventist customs your family has.”

Adult!me thinks Mrs. Gladstone has good intentions…. but she should know that you don’t undo years of brainwashing in a day. “Forget all the customs your SDA family  has?” Being told something like this is only going to make the children cling even harder to those SDA customs. Far better to try and use logic to explain why those customs really aren’t necessary.

Anyway, Holly and Aralyn are taken to the nursery, where they are expected to help feed and dress a bunch of babies and toddlers. Holly thinks about her baby being like one of these, and shudders.

Holly asks Aralyn how she was caught, and Aralyn just says they took her parents and brother and she doesn’t know what happened to them. Then Holly and Aralyn go to school.

The high school is much bigger than the one I went too; the one I went too was small, and only had 2 floors; one for the 9th and 10th graders and one for the 11th and 12th. The top floor belonged to the older kids.

My brother went to public school in a small town. This is what his school was like.

Unfortunately, this high school was not like that. It had about 4 floors, and there were a ton of classrooms, and frankly, I don’t do so good in bigger schools.

This is what I thought high schools in big towns were like. In retrospect, I should’ve consulted my cousin, who actually went to public school in a large city.

Holly gets lost on her way to Spanish class and freaks out. A tall girl with shoulder length blond hair finds Holly and helps her out.

“Hey, no prob. Anytime you need help, come find me.” she turns to walk away, then stops. “Better go in now, your late. Sra. Sobre won’t like that.”

I find my voice, “aren’t you late too?”

“Yeah, its no big deal.”

“But why –”

“You needed help.” she smiles at me, “see ya.” She walks away. I shrug, open the door, and walk into class

Okay, this is weird.

Anyway, Holly gets to Spanish class, and it turns out that they stuck her in beginning Spanish. Which would be incredibly boring. It would be as if they had sent her back to Kindergarten.

Points to teenage!me, she tries to show that Holly is smarter than the teacher. Teenage!me loses points because, at this point in time, her knowledge of Spanish was incomplete. Holly demonstrates, at best, a low intermediate knowledge of Spanish. Which still makes her smarter than the Spanish teacher in this high school, so Holly gets sent to the principal’s office.

Tall-girl-with-the-blonde-hair walks by on the way to her locker and sees me. I look away and stare straight ahead. Sra. Sobre sits me down on a bench in the secretary’s office.

“Wait here.” she snaps. ……

an arm wraps around my shoulders, “what happened?”

I force tears down as I explain to her that I’m too smart for Spanish 1 and I just wanna die and get it over with. She pats me on the back. When I finish, she whispers, “I’m praying for ya!” then, she steps out of the office.

Tall-Girl-With-The-Blond-Hair certainly has a lot of freedom to roam the halls. I wonder, is she…. no, no that is not possible. I am damn sure I did not stick any guardian angels into my story.

More likely this is just another example of poor writing. Teenage!me probably thought High Schoolers in public schools just got to run around doing nothing all day and no one noticed.

Tall-Girl-With-The-Blond-Hair is there when Holly gets done talking to Principal Principle (no that’s not his name, god I wasn’t THAT stupid), and I think Teenage!me didn’t realize how creepy this all sounded. TGWTBH is always there. Always. Teenage!me meant to portray her as friendly, but I feel like this is a bit much.

(In case anyone was wondering, yes, TGWTBH has a real life counterpart, and yes, I had what I now recognize as the equivalent of an aromantic asexual crush on her.)

Holly goes to math class, which is thoroughly depressing and makes her want to jump off a cliff, and then goes to the cafeteria, where she is overwhelmed by both the noise and the crowd.

TGWTBH (Seriously, why didn’t I give this girl a name sooner? We don’t learn this girl’s name for like 4 chapters) finds Holly and says they should go eat someplace quieter. Again, making her sound way more creepy than teenage!me intended. She’s trying to get Holly alone so she can… I don’t know, talk some sense into her about religion? Religion does end up being what they talk about. TGWTBH says that she is a Christian, and Holly stupidly says,

“Me too, I’m Adventist.” that was probably a dumb thing to say, I realize seconds after I say it. How do I know I can trust her?

Should I trust that creepy girl with blonde hair who seems to always be where I am and wanted to get me alone in an empty classroom for some reason? Sure. Why not.

Oh well. Better to die now anyway than to go through much more of this.

Holly believes that abortion is murder. But getting yourself killed by recklessly endangering yourself for no good reason while pregnant? God’s totally fine with that.

But it’s ok, because TGWTBH is an Adventist too! Holly knows, because she knows the signs of an Adventist or ex Adventist.

 “your one too. I can tell. You don’t wear any Jewelry, I can’t see any cleavage, and you don’t look pregnant.”

There is some truth to this. Someone who doesn’t wear any jewelry, tends to dress conservatively, could be an Adventist or ex Adventist. Very little or no jewelry can be a tell sign. Dressing conservatively can be a tell sign. These things taken together could be tell signs. But this sentence alone, just these things, they wouldn’t tell you much of anything, really. You’d have to also observe the person for a long time to determine whether or not they’re like you. I would know. I keep trying to find them.

TGWTBH tells Holly she’s right, and asks Holly why she’s not in jail. Holly throws the question right back at her: how come you’re not in jail?

And it’s a fair question. At this point, I’d be wondering if TGWTBH is a spy sent from the government to figure out where my loyalties lie. She certainly does seem to be hovering close enough.

“I should ask the same thing of you.” I respond. Then I proceed to explain, “I left the church a long time ago, during which I got the piercings, and everything you see here. I only recently came back. The feds didn’t believe I was adventist so they took me away and put me here.” I burst into tears, “I wish they’d taken me with my mom and sister! Then I could at least be with them! And I could die with them too! I just… I just wanna die!”

I went through a few suicidal phases in high school. It’s kind of a wonder I survived, actually. And yeah, the religious conflict was a huge part of the reason why.

Tall-Girl puts her arms around me. “I’m not in jail, because for some reason, the cops don’t think I’m adventist either,” she pauses, “only, they have no reason to think that. It was God, Holly, who told them I wasn’t. It was God who protected me, and its God who’s protecting you. For a reason.”

Kind of creepy, and I really do need more of an explanation than this, but you know what, sure, fair enough. If God is going to be a character in your story, he may as well be involved. It’s not great storytelling, and it does kinda make God look like a dick for not saving everyone….

When you have an all powerful character in your novel, it can be very hard to make him a sympathetic character. This is why most writers avoid having such characters because you can either write them as being uninvolved dicks, or you can have the God character solve everybody’s problems. Neither one of those options are any good, but teenage!me was at least trying.

After school, Tall-girl offers to drive me home. I start to tell her where I live.

“Don’t bother.” she says, I know where you live.”

Creeeeeeeepyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!

TGWTBH tells Holly she used to be good friends with Mrs. Gladstone… ok, but the phrase there is “used to be,” so, how do you know Holly lives there?

I think teenage!me kinda thought that, like, Mrs. Gladstone was known in the community for the work she was doing with children of Adventist parents. Certainly the high school principal would likely be informed of who to go to if he had problems with Adventist students trying to hold prayer meetings.

But if they live in a big city, would that really be something that a lot of people know? Well, someone with connections to the Adventist community might….

I’m overthinking this. Let’s move on. As TGWTBH drives Holly home, they have this conversation. Looking back, this was a cry for help. I’m surprised that the grown up who read this didn’t catch it. Said grown up worked in a psych ward with loads of suicidal patients, so I’m not sure. Maybe he didn’t care?

“Holly, God kept you alive for a reason.”

“yeah, to torture me as punishment for –”

“Holly!” she sighs as she pulls up to my house, “Just promise me one thing.” she says as I get out, “don’t commit suicide.”

I start to say that I won’t make promises that I can’t keep when all of a sudden I feel something in my abdomen. The baby can kick already???

“No,” I promise, “no suicide.” not until the baby is born. Then, I will take my life.

Holly is 5 weeks pregnant. Wasn’t that established a few chapters ago? I remember researching pregnancy, and finding out that babies don’t usually start kicking until about the 3 or 4 month mark. There has been a little bit of time between the time Holly tells her mom she’s 5 weeks pregnant and now, but not that much time! Time doesn’t flow normally in this story. It randomly speeds up and then falls back.

Anyway, that’s the end of the chapter. Tune in next time for more teenage awfulness!

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